I don’t know about you, but I am starting to feel the effects of having a lot of cookies in the house at the moment, and it’s only early December. It can be all too tempting, particularly in the afternoon when I am starting to fade a bit, to reach into one of the boxes I currently have sitting in the kitchen and picking out a cookie to snack on. Then I think I should have it with a cup of tea, but of course by the time I make tea the cookie has gone so I need to get out another one. True, the odd cookie is not a bad thing but it’s a daily habit at the moment which isn’t really me and doesn’t feel all that great; I don’t know if I’m weird but I get sugar headaches. But it has some benefits as I then start plotting healthy foods to compensate, such as this great big beet salad that I had for lunch yesterday.
I know salads can feel out of place at this time of year but to me it’s more a matter of picking the right seasonal ingredients and they can then still be just what you need. A beet salad, for instance, feels much more at home this time of year I think and particularly when you add in things like persimmon and fennel as I have here. Top it off with a delicious, creamy goat’s cheese dressing and you have a perfect winter salad.
This winter beet salad is incredibly easy to prepare with only 5 ingredients in the salad and the same in the dressing. I think roast beets (or the full name beetroot as I would tend to call them in the UK) are much better flavor-wise for this salad which I appreciate means a little more work than say buying ready-cooked beets, but you roast them a day or two ahead of time when you are cooking something else and keep them refrigerated until you need them. Then all you do is slice a couple things, gently toast the hazelnuts (though you can skip this) and whisk together the dressing and that’s it. If you can’t get hazelnuts then you could substitute them with walnuts or pecans though I think hazelnuts are the better flavor match.
While I had this beet salad for lunch (and polished off a great big bowl of it), it would also make a great appetizer or side dish. It would be a great salad for entertaining as it’s so easy but has lots of color and flavor. Whenever you choose to serve it, this is one delicious salad that’s got so many textures and flavors for so few ingredients – the crunch of the salad and fennel, the soft sweet persimmon, the earthy roast beetroot and the creamy rich goat’s cheese dressing with a slight sweetness from honey. It’s a wonderful bowl of tasty goodness that certainly helps balance out the Christmas cookies. In fact so much so, I’m craving more of this winter beet salad for lunch today.
- 2 medium beet(root)
- 4-5 handfuls mixed salad leaves (eg spring mix)
- 1 small bulb of fennel
- 1 fuyu persimmon (the smaller tomato-shaped ones that you can eat when still firm)
- ½ cup/70g hazelnuts
- dressing -
- 4tbsp/60g goats cheese
- 2tbsp milk
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 2tsp honey
- 2tsp wine vinegar
- Peel the beets, cut into bite-sized chunks, toss with a little olive oil in a roasting dish and roast them for approx 40min at 375-400F/180-200C until tender to a knifepoint. This can be done a day or two ahead and the beets kept in the fridge until needed.
- Put the salad leaves in a large bowl. Halve the fennel bulb, remove the firm core and thinly slice, cutting larger slices in half. Toss the fennel with the salad leaves.
- Cut the persimmon into thin slices and arrange over the salad leaves. Arrange the beetroot pieces over the leaves as well.
- Gently toast the hazelnuts in a dry skillet/frying pan or under the broiler/grill for a few minutes until you can start to smell them slightly but they are not browning (you can skip this if you don't have time, it just helps bring out the flavor) then add to the salad bowl.
- Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients and pour over the salad. Note - You don't want to put the dressing over too far ahead of serving as it can separate and look a little like it has curdled although it's fine.